Commercial landscape construction involves building gardens and other landscapes; following designs or instructions. Some involved in construction may also do design. Others are specialists in particular trades. Some may be all-round gardeners with design and construction skills. Construction can include anything from installing drainage and earthworks, to planting and mulching.
Scope of Work
Landscape construction jobs may be unskilled, semi skilled or highly skilled; for example:
- Surveying - Setting out sites with string lines and pegs
- Earthworks - Moving earth with hand tools, or operating sophisticated equipment
- Skilled Construction - Paving, fencing, bricklaying, concreting, masonry, carpentry, plumbing
- Soil preparation - Structure and nutrition being made fit for purpose with additives, cultivation, compaction
- Planting - Identifying, placing and planting plants
Other work may include digging out foundations, concreting, building walls, installing trellis, fences, ponds, fountains, statues, sundials, arches and gazebos, controlling weeds, and transplanting plants.
Entry level landscape construction can involve a lot of lifting and manipulating materials.
As a career progresses work may become less physical and more supervisory or managerial.
Experienced landscapers may be more involved in managing work; requiring an understanding of construction planting plans, and good interpersonal skills for liaising with professionals (e.g. architects, planners and designers).
What You Need to Learn
- Garden design - Taking measurements & site information, drawing plans & sketches, principles of garden design, use of features & components
- Building science - Understanding stresses and loads, cement & concrete mixes, depth & width of foundations, construction techniques
- Materials - Types of materials, characteristics of stone, clay, brick, timber, different paving, fencing & walling materials
- Project management - Overseeing small to large scale projects, ordering materials, arranging labour & equipment
- Earthworks - Surveying, drainage, flood mitigation
- Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, operation -using it correctly, maintenance, repair machinery & manual tools
- Plant knowledge - Plant selection, species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties, and weed species
Starting a Career
There are different ways to begin a career in landscaping. Some people have a natural tendency towards making or building things. They may begin by doing odd jobs around the home which leads them to working in the garden, then making a pond, installing a fence, and so on. From here they may seek labouring or entry level jobs in landscaping or gardening and learn from those with experience.
Others might start out by working for a local gardening club or volunteering to help maintain the grounds at local venues like sports grounds, school grounds or parks. Going to trade shows and garden events can also be good ways to network and find out about available jobs.
Some people get to where they want to get by starting their own landscaping business, gradually moving into construction as they gain more knowledge.
There are also people who move into landscaping having worked in related fields like construction industry trades where they have gained transferable skills.
Progressing a Career
It is possible to continue a career in commercial landscapes without formal building training. Those that do are more likely to get involved in planning and supervisory roles, or organising the soft landscaping and planting.
Others are more hands-on and need training in particular construction skills. Whichever route you go down, it is necessary to continue to learn if you want your career to progress. One way to do this is to top up existing knowledge and skills through taking workshops, seminars or courses. Visiting existing landscapes and historic gardens can also be a valuable means of gaining insight and inspiration.
You should join a professional or trade organisation. Networking is also a good way to keep up to date with current technology and trends in garden design, landscaping and horticulture. Attending trade shows and garden fairs is another means of continuously evolving your knowledge.